The Measure Of Time, and Travel That Halted It.

I’ve always loved watches and remember clearly the first one I was given as an 10-year-old.

I’d been nagging my parents for ages, wearing my Gran’s when she’d let me and asking incessantly when it would be a Buy Now opportunity for me. Then on my birthday there it was, my very own watch and a wish come true. It had a slim brown leather strap, small white face and tiny silver hands. I was so excited I ran to friends and family saying ‘ask me the time’, so I could proudly look at my watch and tell them. I still have it.

From there the evolution of wristwatches moved into a more digital era with the coveted Casio water-resistant edition of the 80s a firm favourite. Others had mini calculators, there was the ‘Flik Flak Tell the Time’ watch to help teach children how to, and the coveted and timeless range of colourful analogue Swatch watches among the rest. Moving on a few decades and with the invention of mobile phones – which never leave our hands and computers that keep us peering at our screens, there was a time when watches were second best to the new and addictive distractions.

Admittedly there were a few years where I never wore a watch, having previously alternated between my collection. But that was to change for me, and many others. Watchmakers had taken wristwatches from battlefields in the late 19th and early 20th century to become a must-have functional fashion accessory in the 20th Century. Many iconic brands and design houses remained steadfast throughout the evolution, moving with the times and creating beautiful functional timepieces that could be worn for sport, diving, running – or simply to showcase the wearer’s character and lifestyle.

The Evolution of Wristwatches

Style, elegance, reliability. After all, a quality watch if cared for and treated well, will last for a lifetime. Look to Rolex, up there in the most well-known of watch brands and continually a hot commodity. Similarly Tag Heuer, Cartier, Grand Seiko, Omega, Daniel Wellington, Michale Kors and Fossil. I still have that very first watch in my dressing table drawer safely displayed alongside those that I’ve been gifted and collected over the years. Most are in an elegant style and I select which one to wear based on where I’ll be going – a rose gold or black matt finish to complete a sophisticated look or a minimalistic more functional style for everyday use. I even have one that’s perfect for a life on safari – a favourite is by a Norwegian brand with a brown vegan leather strap.

Time has a way of showing us what matters

I have found that reverting to watch wearing leaves me more punctual, has me feeling more dependable and wastes far less time looking at my phone. I can take my watch swimming, snorkelling, cycling, bundu-bashing, kayaking and completely off the grid, which I can’t do with a phone. It’s also perfect on long haul flights. My watch (es) has reminded me that being in control of our time is crucial, especially in this hectic pace of modern life.

African Travel That Halted Time

Given that much of my travel focus remains in Africa, I reflect on three of the countless moments when time stood still and nothing mattered but being completely immersed in the experience, the place and the privilege. Each memory reminding that time and life should not be measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

Gorilla Trekking in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is old, complex, and biologically rich. It is also home to half the world’s mountain gorillas. Bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the southwest corner of the country, some parts of the park extend over 2,600m above sea level and showcase impressive mixes of plains and afro-montane forest. Here is a haven for the critically-endangered mountain gorilla and one of only three places in the world where visitors can track them.

Since their scientific discovery in 1902, the population of the mountain gorillas has been on a steady decline and there are currently only an estimated closely-guarded 1,000 left in the world, and these can only survive in the wild. In the park, expect you will walk through dense vegetation for a few hours as your guide cuts away the creepers and vines with his machete to clear the way.

Dappled light filters through the thick canopy of trees overhead, underfoot muddied undergrowth, ferns and fungi asI climbed for four hours in search of them, coming upon the family group perched on the side of the mountain. Many of the guides are reformed poachers who now works to protect the precious mountain gorillas, who are monitored 24 hours a day, for their protection. My time with the gorillas is limited to an hour and being in their presence was a surreal and humbling experience.

Gorilla Trekking Uganda

Gorilla Trekking Uganda

Walking in the wild. Pafuri Walking trail.

Providing an off-the-grid digital detox out in nature, the three nights walking safari with Pafuri Walking Trails has you stepping into the private 24,000ha Makuleke Concession in the remote and Northern part of the Kruger National Park, where South Africa meets Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Each day we spent 4-5 hours walking a distance of no more than 10 kilometres, with breaks and plenty of stops to discover tracks and appreciate wildlife. It’s introspective and quiet and being that close to nature with no distractions is experience, the only mark of time the moving sun, and my faithful wristwatch. Immerse yourself into a forest of ana trees, follow in the compacted footfalls of generations of elephants and reflect on the many traversers, good and bad, who’ve crossed at Crook’s Corner.

Pafuri Walking Trail

Dancing barefoot to Maloya Music at Reunion Island’s Festival Liberté Métisse

Reunion Island’s annual Festival Liberté Métisse festival of freedom saw me dancing barefoot in the rain to the sounds of Danyél Waro, a famed malayo musician. A historic date in the collective subconscious of the people of Reunion Island, the 20th December 1848 marks the abolition of slavery on the island. Every year on this date, the Reunionese gather to celebrate freedom and dance to the Maloya rhythm. After four centuries, Reunion has a particular identity formed by the arrival of its people from around the world – European, Malagasy, African, Indian, Chinese and Comoros. This is the very mix that makes the island a unique destination.

Spending an evening with legendary Creole musician, poet and activist Denyal Waro as he celebrated with a Kabaro at his home between the sugarcane fields above Saint-Denis. One of the most famous of the island’s Creole, it was largely his determination that brought Maloya music to the world. It’s trance like, rhythmic sounds infectious, it’s messaging profound. Danyèl Waro personifies warmth, welcoming me with open arms, kisses to the cheeks and a heartfelt invitation to join the vibrant dancing. The soft rain ran down his face and the humidity fogged up his glasses, but nothing could dampen the energy or spirit of the man who’s fondly known as the Creole King of Maloya.

In the rain, mud underfoot, the mood was light, animated, playful and passion-filled. With a complete sense of abandon that the uniting freedom the festival so aptly celebrates. Maloya in turn is the rhythmic music on which plantation workers have been singing their joys and woes since the early days of Isle de Bourbon. ’We are Creole’ I’m told by Danyel Waro. ‘Not Irish or African or Chinese. We are the Creole of Reunion Island.’ And for that one blissful night, so was I.

Reunion Island

Reunion Island

Reunion Island

** This post is made possible by Superbalist.

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